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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Our Largest Object: Part II

A few weeks back I posted a bit about our largest collections object--the Rosenbach brothers' house at 2010 Delancey.  My last post covered some of the early history of the house, but much of the way the house looks now, at least in the interior, has to do with later renovations.

One of the most striking visual features of the house as it exists today is the half-turn staircase, but it is not the one that was originally built for the house in the 1860s. 

Photo by Susan Beard Design
The house's original staircase had been a simple dog-leg stair; we don't know exactly when it was ripped out and the replacement installed, but it happened sometime before 1940, probably in the 1920s.

The owners perhaps most responsible for the interior finishes of the house we see now were the Martins. In 1940 when John and Alice Martin purchased 2010 Delancey place from Mr. and Ms. George S. Robbins,  2010 had been split into two apartments and was in need of repair.  Mrs. Martin commissioned the architectural firm of Thalheimer  & Weitz, well known for their work in the art deco style, to renovate the house. However, she did not want art deco, she wanted neo-Georgian.  The firm replastered every surface and added the Georgian cornices, ceiling medallions, and wall moldings. The archway through which the stair opens was installed for Mrs. Martin, as were the structural beams beneath the columns flanking the arch. New paneling and mantels were brought in, some from other homes in the Martin/Curtis family, while others were moved around.

The Martins also made some changes to the layout of the house, including closing and plastering the space between the parlor and dining room where double doors had hung. But they were not the last to alter the house; the Rosenbachs also made their mark. There were cosmetic changes, including some new mantels and wall sconces, but one of the more significant alterations was on the third floor. In the Martins’ time the third floor space now used for the libraries served as bedrooms. According to Mrs. Martin, the space was used as a small apartment for a daughter-in-law, with a bathroom approximately where the two breakfronts are. For Dr. R, a library suited his needs far better.
After the Rosenbachs died in 1952 and 1953, the house continued to change to meet the needs of the growing museum. Bathrooms were removed or turned into offices, the elevator in the stairwell was removed as it did not meet code, shelving was added and removed, etc.Connecting 2010 to its neighboring townhouse (2008) also occasioned some changes; some spaces which were originally part of 2010 are now accessed from the 2008 side, and short hallways have been carved out of what used to be closets to bring the buildings together and meet safety codes. It's all part of the fascinating history of our largest object.

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog


Friday, April 20, 2012

A Stoker Century

Bram Stoker. Dracula. London: Archibald Constable and Company, 1897. EL3 .S874d 897 

Although his most renowned literary creation was famously "un-dead," Bram Stoker was as mortal as the rest of us and today marks the centennial of his death on April 20, 1912.

 Here is a link to his obituary, as printed in The Times of London. It remembers him primarily as the friend and assistant of Henry Irving, whose Lyceum Theatre he managed (and managed well, supervising a staff of 128), but it had this to say about his writing:

"A fluent and flamboyant writer, with a manner and mannerisms which faithfully reflected the mind that moved the pen, Stoker managed to find the time, amid much arduous and distracting work, to write a good deal. He was the master of a lurid and creepy kind of fiction, represented by "Dracula" and other novels; he had also essayed musical comedy, and had of late years renewed his connexion with journalism. But his chief literary memorial will be his Reminiscences of Irving, a book which with all of its extravagances and shortcomings--Mr. Stoker was no very acute critic of of his chief as an actor--cannot but remain a valuable record of the workings of genius as they appeared to his devoted associate and admirer."

If you are interested in commemorating Stoker by reading what actually turned out to be his "chief literary memorial" you can find the Project Gutenberg e-text of Dracula here. You can also download some of Stoker's other novels, including Lair of the White Worm, The Jewel of Seven Stars, The Lady of the Shroud, and The Man. You can find links and downloads for the remainder of Stoker's twelve novels, as well as his short stories, and his non-fiction Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving at There is also a nice set of articles available online from the Irish Times, which explore Stoker's connection to Dublin and his literary interest in technology, among other topics.

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Our Largest Object

If you saw our Superlative Showcase, you know that the Rosenbach brothers' home at 2010 Delancey place is our largest collections object. But how much do you know about it?

The 2000 block of Delancey was built in the early 1860s as a developers row, which explains the unified brick appearance of the street. It was an investment project of "John McCrea, builder" who bought the "lots on west Delancey Place between 20th and 21st streets" in 1852. To get sense of what the neighborhood was like, you can take a look at the historic maps at In the earliest map on their site, which dates from 1875, you can see the livery stables at the end of the street and several small woolen mills slightly to the south.

The earliest residents of 2010 appear to have been members of the Coleman family. Mrs. Harriet Drayton purchased the property in 1866 and it passed to her relative Anne L. Coleman in 1867, who lived in it until 1886. There is also an unexplained record of a Jane Coleman, gentlewoman, residing at 2010 Delancey in the 1865 edition of McElroy's Philadelphia city directory, prior to the purchase by Mrs. Drayton, but we haven't been able to sort out what exactly this means.

After the Colemans the house was owned by Elizabeth Royce Judson and then in 1902 it was acquired by Edward Coles. It remained in the Coles family until 1940 when it was bought by John and Alice Martin. The Martins embarked on a campaign of alterations and improvements to 2010 Delancey and are responsible for much of the interior as we now experience it. But that is a subject for another post, so stay tuned.

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

Friday, April 06, 2012

Happy Holidays

With Passover and Easter nigh upon us, here are a couple of holiday-related items from our collection.

The two-volume Mahzor Minhag Roma, published by the Soncinos in 1485/1486, is the first printed Jewish prayerbook and includes the Passover haggadah. The haggadah section marks another first--it is illustrated with the earliest known printed illustration of a matzah. As you can see in the image below, the circular matzah is labelled with the Hebrew word for matzah.

Mahzor Minhag Roma, Soncino/Casal Maggiore: The Sons of Soncino, 1485/6. Incun 485m Image by Rick Echelmeyer

This pen-and-ink depiction of the Crucifixion is one of a pair of drawings in our collection removed from a 16th-century Flemish prayerbook (the other depicts the Nativity). In this image, the Crucifixion is surrounded on three sides by thirteen scenes from the Passion, beginning with Christ praying at Gethsemane and concluding with the entombment of Christ and the women leaving the tomb. Four of these scenes are copied after prints made in 1512 by Albrecht Dürer; our version appears to have been made a generation later.

Flemish artist, Crucifixion and thirteen scenes from the Passion. 1530-1540. 1954.602

Happy holidays!

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog